Media, celebrity culture, and unrealistic social expectations contribute to the chronic issue of disordered eating faced by millions of families in America. Individuals struggling with substance misuse have a higher risk of experiencing disordered eating. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Eating disorders (EDs), which cause serious health problems and can be fatal, frequently co-occur with substance use disorders (SUDs).” America’s obsession with weight loss and fad diets often impacts women more than men. However, anyone, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status, can develop symptoms of disordered eating. Restoration Recovery Center uses a holistic approach to treatment that helps clients develop a healthier relationship with food.
America’s Relationship With Food
Our country pushes unrealistic body expectations while ignoring health guidelines regarding portion sizes and food content. The general public has insufficient education about the importance of nutritional meals and how to prepare them. On a personal scale, many people feel pressured by friends or family to control their eating. Television, movies, books, ads, and even music extensively feature underweight bodies celebrated as “fit.” Celebrities and online health gurus often peddle fad diets and meal plans that do not provide the recommended daily nutrition. In addition, America has many different cultures with their foods and traditions surrounding meals.
Many people believe that disordered eating is a personal choice. However, according to MedlinePlus, “Eating disorders are medical conditions; they are not a lifestyle choice.” The misinformation and social pressures surrounding weight loss, combined with an overabundance of unhealthy foods, have created a perfect storm that leaves many people struggling to avoid disordered eating. Younger adults diagnosed with SUD have a significantly higher risk of developing disordered eating.
What Is Disordered Eating?
Disordered eating is an umbrella term that can include a wide range of behaviors, including:
- Irregular eating schedules
- Rigid eating schedules
- Compulsive or emotional eating
- Food restriction
- Excessive exercise after or before eating
- Vomiting or induced diarrhea after eating
Clinical disorders caused by disordered eating often co-occur with substance misuse. The most common eating disorders include:
- Bulimia nervosa (BN)
- Anorexia nervosa (AN)
- Binge eating disorder (BED)
- Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
Each disorder has unique symptoms and side effects. However, all of them involve the following:
- Compulsive and obsessive thoughts or behaviors related to food and eating
- Difficulty controlling the type and amount of food eaten
- Mood changes, including depression and anxiety
- Physical or mental side effects caused by the amount and type of food eaten
Disordered eating involves behaviors or thoughts that interfere with your ability to eat healthily. If left untreated, they often lead to significant side effects and long-term health issues. An ED also increases the risk of relapse.
Does Disordered Eating Affect Mental Health?
Physical health directly affects a person’s mental well-being. People who binge eat or restrict their food intake will feel psychological and physical effects that can include:
- Mental confusion
- Memory issues
- Sleep disturbances
- Acute psychosis
- Weakened muscles
- Body aches
- Difficulty completing even minor exercises
- Labored breathing when doing daily activities like walking
- Body image issues
- Heart palpitations
Everyone reacts differently to disordered eating, and the symptoms vary from mild to severe. However, researchers have found that it severely impacts the brain and other organs in the body. The National Institute of Health (NIH) found that “eating disorders, eating disorder behaviors and excessive weight loss or weight gain modulated the brain’s dopamine-related reward circuit response, altering brain circuitry associated with food intake control, and potentially reinforcing eating disorder behaviors.” Disordered eating causes long-term internal changes that make it more challenging to develop a healthier lifestyle.
Reframing Your Relationship With Food
Most people do not give a lot of thought to how they view food. A food journal is an excellent way to become more self-aware about potentially unhealthy eating habits; by noting down what you eat and when every day for several weeks, you will have a clear snapshot of your diet. The results may surprise you. Many people with disordered eating do not recognize how eating affects their mood and behavior.
You can reframe your relationship with food by making yourself more away how your thoughts and behaviors surrounding food affect the rest of your life. Many people find it helpful to attend self-help groups for individuals with eating disorders. Peer support is a tool that can help you change how you think about food.
The Connections Between Disordered Eating and Alcohol Misuse
EDs and SUD have many overlapping risk factors and side effects. In addition, both conditions often require professional treatment and aftercare. Restoration Recovery Center uses comprehensive assessments to determine the best treatment approach to ensure a positive outcome for individuals with a dual diagnosis. We also offer personalized programs that include nutritional education and life skill development. Disordered eating does not define you. We can help you find a healthy path forward.
Disordered eating and intrusive thoughts about food or eating significantly affect some people in recovery. Symptoms of eating disorders and other mental health issues often overlap and cause more severe side effects. Social expectations and media representations of disordered eating contribute to the development of eating disorders. Early intervention and professional mental health treatment are essential to ensure symptoms do not interfere with ongoing sobriety. Restoration Recovery Center uses evidence-based methods to treat substance use disorder and dual diagnosis. We give clients all the tools they need to avoid falling into maladaptive behaviors during recovery, including disordered eating. We educate clients on nutrition and how to maintain a healthy diet during recovery. To learn more, call us at (888) 290-0925.